Manila: A total of eight people — five plantation workers and three soldiers — were killed in two separate incidents in Basilan and Lanao del Norte in the southern Philippines yesterday.
With this, a three-cornered clash among government forces, rebels and a local terror group has claimed the lives of 30 soldiers, five civilians, and nine rebels, since it began in the south last Tuesday, police and military reports said.
Four rubber tree tappers and one paramilitary escort were killed, and eight others were wounded, when armed men attacked as their vehicle entered the Tumahubong Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Incorporated Development Cooperative in Sapak Bulak village, Sumisip town, at around five yesterday morning, Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the Mindanao Examiner.
"We still don't know who was behind the ambush on Basilan island. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack," said Cabangbang.
Apart from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group also operates in Sumisip.
At the same time, three soldiers of the 5th Infantry Battalion were killed and three others injured when their vehicle was ambushed at the national highway in Payong village, Sultan Naga Dimaporo town, at 11.15 yesterday morning. Lanao del Norte is 60km away from Basilan.
The troops, led by Lieutenant Colonel Bagnun Gaerlan, were headed towards Malabang town, Lanao del Norte, when ambushed. The attackers fled to a coastal area.
"We are still trying to figure out which group was behind the attack," said Cabangbang.
Meanwhile, a government soldier and two paramilitary men were wounded when a landmine exploded in Maluso town, Basilan province, on Saturday.
"They were originally in a group which clashed with around 30 armed men in Canas Village in Basilan. Later, they were hit by a landmine in Maluso town. They were brought to a military hospital in Zamboanga City," Cabangbang said.
Some 150 suspected MILF rebels, led by a commander, have also reportedly occupied two schools in Talusan town in Zamboanga.